Police are searching for seven people after the boat they were on, which was en route to Haiti, caught fire off the coast of Long Island on Thursday afternoon.
Long Island MP Adrian Gibson said nine people were reportedly on the boat when the incident happened – six men and three women.
Gibson said two of the passengers were reportedly Bahamian, the others Haitian.
A woman on the boat, who had been ill, died on board before the fire started, according to the survivors.
“The vessel – an 80-ft steel hull cargo boat known as the MV Fish Farmer – was en route to Haiti after departing from Potter’s Cay Dock at 5:30 p.m. on Monday,” Gibson said.
“Per the Emergency Powers Order, the captain was given permission to make their return trip to Haiti.”
Gibson said two of the survivors were in police custody on Long Island on Friday.
They claimed an explosion in the engine room caused the fire on the boat. They said they were separated from the other passengers while trying to get to shore.
“The men stated that they swam eight to 10 miles, throughout the night,” Gibson said.
“They indicated that they became separated from the other six passengers around 2 a.m. this morning due to shifting tides. Six persons remain missing. The deceased was left on board the vessel.”
In the aftermath of the incident, rumours circulated on social media that the ill woman was believed to have had COVID-19.
However, Gibson said that was not the case.
“According to the police, the survivors claimed that during the voyage, a woman travelling onboard and purportedly suffering from previous non-COVID related illness, experienced worsening conditions and died,” he said.
“Notwithstanding that assertion, healthcare professionals are treating all persons with the greatest caution.”
Gibson added, “Medical professionals on Long Island have carried out a field check and noted that the men are presently not exhibiting any signs of COVID-19. All the necessary protocols are being followed.
“This evening, on the advice of Prime Minister [Dr. Hubert] Minnis, I have also spoken to [Deputy Chief Medical Officer] Dr. Delon Brennen. Dr. Brennen will be organizing any further testing and/or additional health examinations of the men.”